Students, faculty, and staff at all Washington State University locations will soon have access to new and improved cultural competency training.

The President’s University Council, as well as WSU deans and other senior leaders, will be among the first groups to receive the training this summer.

During WSU President Kirk Schulz’ recent State of the University Address he said students have been very vocal about their support of this initiative.

“Incorporating equity and inclusiveness in every aspect of the university’s enterprise is one of our highest priorities going forward,” Schulz said. “In fact, it will be one of the fundamental principles guiding the development of our new systemwide strategic plan.”

Jaime Nolan, associate vice president of Community, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence (CEIE), is overseeing the systemwide team developing the training curriculum. The team began assessing existing cultural competency and ally trainings a year ago working in tandem with the Cultural Competency and Ally Training Work Group, one of five working groups established as part of WSU’s Campus Climate and Culture initiatives.

Nolan said this effort is an example of how WSU will achieve a more robust and integrated equity and diversity approach.

“Working together in concert across our WSU system will ensure we build upon prior diversity and equity initiatives and continue to learn from each other in our community,” Nolan said. “Through this approach, we are able to operate in a strategic, evidenced-based, and data-informed manner.”

People will be able to sign-up for the training by visiting the WSU Human Resource Services website. By using the AMS system, faculty and staff at all WSU locations will be able to participate. Person-to-parson workshops for groups of up to 30 people will also be available.

Foundational training

Merrianneeta Nesbitt, diversity and inclusion specialist in Outreach and Education (OED), said the vision for the training includes a series of specialized workshops, each building upon each other in the skills taught. The first installment of the new curriculum is called Equity 101: Inclusive Language and Practices.

Last week for the first time, members of the group provided a pilot session of the workshop via AMS to faculty and staff in Pullman, Spokane, Yakima, and Vancouver. It explored key terms related to equity and inclusion, talked about commonly made mistakes, intent vs impact, and builds knowledge around affirming language.

Nesbitt describes Equity 101 as important foundational training that takes into account that people will come to the table with different levels of cultural competency knowledge.

“We all need to start together in one place and move together as we grow in our understanding of equity and inclusion,” she said.

Feedback from the pilot program is being collected using Qualtrics and the workshop will be fine-tuned throughout the summer in preparation for a formal launch this fall semester.

Two additional workshops are still in the development stage, Equity 102: Who are You? Fostering Critical Self-Awareness and Equity 103: Equality and Equity. They will explore how our multiple identities shape our view of the world and how we interact with others, as well as key differences between equality and equity.

Vancouver program seeing success

More recently WSU Vancouver implemented one of WSU’s most comprehensive cultural competency professional development programs called Building a Community of Equity (BaCE). Obie Ford III, WSU Vancouver’s campus director of Equity and Diversity, said the 12-hour series of workshops helps participants create safe spaces so they can explore their own self-awareness.

“People may feel vulnerable at first,” Ford said. “As facilitators, our intention is to create a brave space in which they feel safe to open up, take some risks, lean in to this work, and expand their equity lens.”

By the end of the series, participants are encouraged to take what they learned and become change agents in the WSU community and beyond.

The impact of the training is measured through a pre-training and post-training assessment called the Intercultural Development Inventory.

“We want them to take action to help WSU become a more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable place where everyone can thrive,” he said.

Consistency across the system

WSU Spokane’s Assistant Director of Student Diversity and International Student Life Dion Crommarty said much of the cultural competency training on his campus has been developed and implemented by the different health science colleges and departments. The departmentalized approach to training is not unique to WSU Spokane or WSU in general, but it does present challenges in making sure every department is providing a consistent level of training and participants are receiving consistent messages.

“It will still be important to consider the uniqueness of each campus, as there may be certain aspects of cultural competency that are more relevant to future healthcare professionals,”

Crommarty used as an example. “Moving towards a systemwide training model is going to streamline the process and improve the quality across the board.”

Peer-to-peer education

Discussions are also underway to offer peer-to-peer cultural competency training for students. Planning is not as far along as that for faculty and staff. A group of students called the Social Justice Peer Educators is formulating a pilot training program for students.

Matthew Jeffries, director of the Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center, said student training will address cultural appropriation, micro-aggressions, and what students should do in navigating difference.

“It is a really good educational opportunity for them to try something and see what works and what doesn’t,” said Jeffries. “I anticipate they will be ready to roll out a good program for student groups in the fall.”

A hunger for training

The team is considering a certificate program similar to what has been implemented at WSU Vancouver. On that campus, participants who complete 12 hours of program offerings earn the BaCE Professional Development Certificate. Ford said many faculty and staff there are well on their way to achieving that goal.

Since BaCE went live last fall, Ford said nearly half of all WSU Vancouver’s full and part-time employees have participated in the program. When looking at just full-time employees, that number jumps to nearly 70 percent.

“There is a hunger for this on our campus and it is motivating us to move forward in building an inclusive community,” said Ford. “This is an opportunity like no other and I’m excited to watch it prosper across all of our campuses.”